Prince Osita Ike was an amiable and jovial man, with a charm all his own that endeared him to everyone around him. When he died suddenly last December, it sent shock waves down the spine of the literary community. The question on many lips was, how would his 86 years old father, a writer of immense gift and traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State, take the death of his only child?
Osita Ike was fondly remembered last week in Ibadan and eulogised just as his father was also consoled at a gathering of writers that included Emeritus Professors Ayo Banjo and Ayo Bamgbose, Profs. Niyi Osundare and Femi Osofisan among others.
Leading the train was Chairman of University Press Plc, Dr. lalekan Are and the publishing outfit’s Managing Director, Mr. Samuel Kolawole. Are said the almost 65 years of friendship between him and the royal father was something he treasures very well. He described Osita Ike as a jovial man, who fondly called him ‘uncle.’ Are said he was touched and surprised that the bereaved traditional ruler could make the long trip to event.
“Nobody likes to lose his or her child, not to talk of an only child,” Are said. “If you knew Osita, he was full of life; he always made you laugh. I almost swore to my wife that Ike will not come, but when I saw him, I was chocked. It means he holds this organisation (University Press Plc) very highly.”
For Kolawole, who was close to Osita and was with him on the board Nigerian Book Fair Trust (NBFT), organisers of Nigerian International Book Fair (NIBF), Osita’s passing was such a painful loss he was yet to get over it. As a result, he said he could not summon the courage to call his father to console him. He praised the stoic manner the royal father and writer took the passing of his only child and to have braved the distance to come all the way from Anambra State to Ibadan to attend a gathering of his clan of writers.
According to him, “The way you have handled the loss is a big lesson to all of us here.” However, the writer, famous for such endearing titles as Toads for Supper, The Potters’ Wheel, Chicken Chasers and Toads Forever didn’t even refer to the death of his son and heir, when he made submission to the issue of food security that formed the topic of discussion at the Authors’ Forum. Instead, he spoke about the new agricultural initiative of governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, who desires to deal with cooperatives only in formulating a new farming policy thrust for a profitable agricultural drive for Anambra people. It was the octogenarian’s hope that the new initiative would work out well so it could be replicated across the country for self-sufficient in food production to be attained and also export for the needed foreign exchange earnings.
Earlier, a professor of Soil Science from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Charles Livinus Asadu, gave a lecture on ‘Agricultural Policies, Programmes and Small-Holder Farmers Systems vis-a-vis Food Security in Nigeria.’ Asadu blamed frequent policy changes and poor budgetary allocations since the advent of oil boom in the 1970s, as reasons for Nigeria’s poor performance in the agricultural sector. He called on government to first of all map the country’s soil structure so would-be farmers are aware what to plant and where so efforts do not get dissipated. Also, Asadu advised government to mechanise agriculture to take away the drudgery so as to attract young people to the farms to make a living.